Archive for May, 2010

Feeding the birds

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010


Last year when we were in England we bought a bird feeder to hang in the olive tree outside the back door. For a long time it hung there unused. We just assumed Italian birds were stupid or as a friend said “if you spend your life being shot at by hunters then using a bird feeder isn’t a wise move”.

However, the local birds have now discoverd the feeder particularly the blue tits and  we can’t keep up with the feeding. They empty the seed feeder in a day. We started by watching them from inside the kitchen but now they treat us as part of the furniture and feed happily while we are having a coffee on the terrace.

 Needless to say we have the Alpha male bird who pushes the other birds off when he wants to feed. We also have the fussy feeders who pick out the seeds they like and throw the rest (mostly sunflower seeds) on the ground for other birds to pick up or to sprout in our new lawn.

One down side is that more cats seem to be coming around. Obviously word has got out that there may be some easy pickings.

We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.

Monday, May 24th, 2010


Unfortunately our time had come to look into the gutters. Our kitchen sink hadn’t been emptying properly for some time and none of the drain cleaning products had worked. So we called a plumber. Unfortunately the first thing he saw was that our drain covers were cemented into place and so he told us that the problem was probably grease and detergent waste blocking the pipes and then he left. Fortunately, the water from the sink goes into the “pure water drain” and so cleaning it was a less daunting prospect.

So we set to work unsealing the drain cover and after two hours work we succeeded. We discovered the plumber was correct. All round the pipes was layers of congealed dishwashing powder, soap etc. We took out 14 litres (3 gallons) of gunge and finally as we flushed the tubes a great sausage of gunge came slipping out. Problem solved, we thought.

The next day the water was again draining away very slowly. So with a “snake” i.e. a long length of thin spring used to unbloke drains we set to work and managed to make the problem worse. Obviously other crude in the pipe and got together and my prodding and poking had simply impacted it.

So we went down to the local Do it yourself shop in search of some inspiration and Bill saw an drain cleaning attachment for our high pressure hose. 65 euros poorer we returned home and set to work. After an hour of pushing and prodding the new attachment seemed to get through the crud and the water drained away. The following day we were back giving the tubes a final blast of water but in fact the problem seemed to be as bad as ever as the cleaning tube hit another piece of hard crud.  Another hour of work and we got through to be met by another couple of blockages. Finally after another hour of work water flowed through with a vengence and hopefully problem is resolved.

Wet Sunday in Vienna verses Wet Sunday in Belfast.

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
sunday belfast sunday in vienna

On Saturday evening it had began to rain. On Sunday it rained all day.

Our first stop was the Schonbrunn Palace, summer home of the Austrian Emperors and whose tube stop was on the same line as our hotel. Had a very informative tour and we were been looking forward to seeing the gardens but wind and rain made it impossible. So we took outselves to the Museum of Modern Art. Big mistake. Lovely building, lovely cafe but for me a rather boring collection. This took us into early afternoon.

Not wanting to go to another museum we wandered the streets for a bit and it left me wondering what was worse – a wet Sunday afternoon in Vienna or a wet Sunday afternoon in Belfast. At least in Belfast the shops open from 1.00 to 6.00. In Vienna it is only the museums and cafes and perhaps the Belfast museum is more interesting than the Vienna Museum of Modern Art.

Having tasted Austrian food for two evenings we opted for a change and went to a Sri Lankan restaurant. We saw it advertised near the opera house and discoverd it’s nearest tube stop was on the same line as the hotel. We had a really good meal. We had rice, string hoppers, hoppers with chicken curry and various vegetable curries. All finished off with Wattalapam (a dessert flavoured with cardmoms, cinnamon etc). Very tasty and something you can’t get in a wet Sunday evening in Belfast.

(p.s. Belfast is the photo on the left)

Second day in Vienna

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Not believing the pharmacist at the “knock 3 times and ask for gaviscon” chemist the previous night our first activity was going to another chemist who immediately told us the same thing but did have Rennies in a sugar free form and so we were able to move onto other things.

First stop was the Kunsthistorisches Museum which has a fantastic art collection.. Far too much to see and take in but I was really impressed by the Holbeins.

After a couple of hours in the gallery we had a stroll through the  town and then joined a tour of the opera house. According to our guide book the architect of the building committed suicide when at the opening the Emperor said it looked like a railway station. A rather harsh judgement.

 The tour was followed by tea and cake in one of the less famous cafes but according to the blurb outside a cafe where both mozart and beethoven had played or at least had a cup of coffee.
restaurant vienna
In the evening we went to the Kuckuck (the cuckoo) restaurant only because it looked nice through the window. We discovered later that it only rates 167th in TripAdvisor’s list of restaurants but I would rate it higher. It had a warm atmosphere, the owners were friendly and the food was Austrian and very tasty. Looking round a supermarket we had realised that it was asparagus season as the shelves had asparagus in  from white through pale green to dark green and everything from thin to think. So I felt it was a good sign when the restaurant had a special asparagus menu on offer. I did go for asparagus with an asparagus and speck salad while Bill opted for a starter with dumplings. Main course for Bill was boiled beef with various sauces and I had chicken breast in paprika sauce served with dumplings. The enjoyable meal was accompanied by the sound of the other diners and an occasional chirp from the 3 or 4 cuckoo clocks in the room.

We then walked back to Karlsplatz underground station to get the tube to the hotel. Not a place to linger as was confirmed later when we noted in our guide that it was one of two places best avoided late at night.

Gaviscon not available in Vienna!!

Saturday, May 15th, 2010
vienna gaviscon

Here we are in Vienna for a weekend. Drove up throught fantastic scenery and a mixture of sunshine and heavy rain. With the help of TomTom we found the hotel “An der Wien” easily. Hotel has car parking, is about 100 metres from a tube line . It is also very clean, friendly and the room is large and bright.

The first walk around Vienna in the evening was to find a chemist that sells gaviscon as Bill had forgotten to bring his supply. I immediately put my german into practice as I asked a guy selling newspapers at the corner “gibt es hier in de Nahe eine apotheke”. In fluent english he told us there was one about 50 metres away. I, unwillingly, slipped back into English and told him it was closed. As it was now 6.30 he said we would have to find an all-night chemist and the address will be on the door of every Chemist. We checked, got the address and within 5 minutes had found an all-night chemist. There was a sign directing us to a side door where we rang a bell. A man opened a small window in the door and asked what we wanted. Then, leaving us out in the street, he went off to look for Gaviscon, returning 5 minutes later to inform us that it was made in Germany and so not available for sale in Austria. Taken by surprise we asked if he had anything for indigestion. Another 5 minutes and he came back with a herbal preparation and a bill for 9 euros. 

A meal that evening of asparagus soup, wienersnitzel and a walk around the old centre eating a rather large ice-cream meant that the herbs were needed – and they worked.

New gate

Thursday, May 13th, 2010
new railing new railing

 Having for a long time worried about people falling down the steps at the back of the house we have opted for “Health and Safety” and had railing and gate put on the steps.  Bill has now painted the concrete grey of the steps with the sage green of the rest of the house and the whole place looks better and is certainly much safer.

Garden goes green

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010


 For the third year running we are hoping to have a lawn. Every year there is a fight against ants, birds and heat and so far we have lost. However, this year we are more hopeful. The size of the lawn has decreased as we have created a shrub bed and so far the weather has been in our favour as we have been having a few warm sunny days followed by some rain. So the grass and of course the weeds are growing and there gaps but we are determined to keep watering this year to get the grass though to autumn when we can so some autumn in-filling.

A day out with Elizabeth or 130 kilometres for a paddle

Saturday, May 1st, 2010
lake trasimeno eating by the lake

On Thursday we went with Elizabeth from Cabernardi to Corciano near Perugia. The aim of the trip was two-fold. Elizabeth wanted to look at beds and wardobes in a store called “Mondo Convenienza” and also to buy a replacement paddle for her bread making machine. The “Mondo Convenienza” store was very large with about 50 fitted out bedrooms showing their range of furniture. On top of this there were areas devoted to kitchens, bathrooms and living rooms. There was something for everyone’s taste and Elizabeth, with her impeccable taste in friends and furniture, saw some things she liked. After the trek around the store we went to a the nearby town of Magione where, according to Elizabeth’s researches, bread making paddles were available. Expecting another emporium we discovered a corner store but a corner shop with a bag full of bread making paddles. Elizabeth paid 8 euros for two paddles and we set off for lunch.

Fortunately we were only a few kilometres from Lake Trasimeno and it was a beautiful, sunny day. We saw in a guide that there was a restauant in San Feliciano on the lake. This restaurant was closed but there was another near by. We had a simple lunch. A selection of antipasti based on fish from the lake (smoked eel on a ricotta base, bruschetta with carp’s roe, perch with parmesan, crayfish with herb dressing) and a bottle of local white wine. We finished with an ice-cream and coffee. A delicious lunch in a beautiful setting.

After this we were able to face the drive back to Cabernardi where Elizabeth rustled up a bottle of chilled prosecco followed by a simple repast of Pear and Gorgonzola risotto (delicious), salad and cheese but no home made bread as yet.